Thursday, December 3, 2015

Enter the Ninja

  Continuing with my Cannon film binge, Enter the Ninja was next up- the only one out of the ninja 'trilogy' I hadn't seen. Starring... Franco Nero (the original Django) as a Texan named Cole... who's also a ninja... who goes to the Philippines to meet an old friend, and ends up fighting a personal war for said friend against some greedy land developers. I didn't make any of that up. I mean, this "trilogy" gets crazier with each entry, and I believe this was the middle one.  This is a mash up of wildly different cliches and tropes which somehow come together to make a really fun and ridiculous movie. Nero is dubbed with a stereotypical American accent, and it sounds rather silly to me. Not necessarily a bad dub, but still.

  As it turns out, he was cast at the very last minute to replace an American actor who the Go-Go Brothers (Producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus) found out was a horrible actor. So, the role was already written and scenes had already been shot, identifying this guy as Cole. The Texan. So rather than undergo costly reshoots, they just cast Nero and dubbed all his lines. It's crazy, but behind-the-scenes stories like that are part of the fun and charm of Cannon flicks. There's a ton of other fun tidbits about this movie, like- Mike Stone, the guy originally cast as Cole, actually stayed on as Nero's stunt double and ended up doing most of the ninja stuff in the movie. Which is good because aside from a few choice kicks and chops, Nero looked ridiculous with nunchucks.

   All odd stuff and goofiness aside, Enter the Ninja is actually a fast paced and violent action movie about y'know... good guys vs bad guys. The plot is simple- as per usual, and the bad guys are cartoonishly evil, which is always good. The action scenes are bloody and fun, and there's a handful of really neat moments in the movie. In one scene, Cole's buddy is called to a meeting with the villain's right hand man, to discuss 'terms'- all the while Cole is infiltrating the building, taking out all the guards and collecting their assault rifles. Then at right the right moment, he casually strolls into the meeting and dumps both armfuls of rifles at the guy's feet. "I think these belong to you." he says with a trademark smirk. If you don't get the biggest kick out of stuff like that, this isn't the movie for you.

   Anyways, before Enter the Ninja, we had a great straightfoward ninja vs ninja flick called Revenge of the Ninja, with genre master Sho Kosugi as a ninja who moves to America with his son, and opens an art gallery. Little does he know, his friend- who also happens to be a ninja, is using his art gallery as a front for smuggling cocaine. So... y'know. Ninja stuff happens.  Revenge of the Ninja is my all time favorite ninja flick. Sho is amazing at what he does and he's also great in Pray for Death- another 80's ninja flick. Anywho- after Enter the Ninja is Ninja III: The Domination. Forget about the fact Sho Kosugi is in each one, because he plays wildly different roles each time. In Revenge' he's the hero and main character. In Enter' he's Cole's evil archenemy. In Domination' he's... a ninja exorcist? That's right, Ninja III is a ninja movie, an aerobics flick, and a possession movie.

  I told you they got crazier with each one.  As it is, Enter the Ninja feels like the middle child that it is. It's not ninja-y enough, like Revenge- nor is it as wildly absurd as Ninja III, but instead it's somewhere inbetween. It's still crazy, and still fun- and I still recommend it, but it's probably my least favorite out of the three movies- which actually have nothing to do with each other. Though if you like 80's action movies, ninja movies, Franco Nero, weird movies, or you're just a straight up Cannon fan, you really shouldn't miss this one. It'd be great as the middle movie in a marathon of all three- which have no real order to them since they're not remotely connected.

  You could do worse for silly action fare, but this is a fun ride with lots of blood, ninja daring-do, and Franco Nero's awesome very un-ninja-like mustache. It's also worth noting that some of Golan and Globus' close associates ended up starting their own film studio called Nu Image that produces a very similar brand of action movies. The Expendables, Ninja (with Scott Adkins no less), Rambo (2008), Drive Angry, and Olympus has Fallen are just some of their movies. If you like Cannon's ninja flicks, definitely check out the two Nu Image Ninja movies with Adkins. They're pretty damn brutal, no lie. Lots of fun too.

  When all is said and done, Cannon films are hard to review. They're just fun shlock. In a conversation or a review, they go as far as the trivia will take you. Otherwise, what are you going to talk about? Lets critque the acting? The writing? Unless it's unusually good, or exceptionally bad- there's no point. And, in here, it's neither. The movie could almost be self aware of how cheesy it is, but it's not. It's a gung-ho action thriller with a large helping of random ninja stuff. Now, you're either someone who's saying- wow that sounds horrible, or you're someone who was already trying to find a copy to watch two paragraphs ago.

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